Urban Sketching In Manchester

Today I went on an Urban Sketchcrawl in Manchester city centre. As you may remember I tried to organise a series of walks with a sketchbook eighteen months ago, one of the wettest summers in recent memory. I’m not sure what I expected but with my Drawn Out walks we tended to stick together and the social aspect as we chatted while we drew was an important part. I was certainly looking forward to meeting other artists from the Manchester and Salford area.

After an initial mix-up with another group who were meeting in the same place and at the same time for a guided walk, I met the Manchester Urban Sketching Group at Victoria Station at 11 am. We were given a card with the ‘itinerary’ on it – a pub for lunch at 1 pm, a second intermediate meeting point at 2 pm and a final ‘show and tell’ in a refreshment establishment at 4 pm. Nevertheless I was surprised that within a few yards the large group had dwindled to a handful as people seemed to head in different directions.

Quite close to Manchester’s Victoria Station, there is a grass area between the National Football Museum (formerly Urbis) and Cheethams  School of Music and several people, including myself, started drawing here.

urban10I drew Urbis, as I still think of it, in charcoal.


The National Football Museum (formerly Urbis)

Here is a photo of the ‘original’.

urban11I moved my stool and sketched the centre of the Cheetham’s building.


When I’d finished, I turned round and found the small number that had been there had all disappeared. Unfortunately I didn’t get to the pub until 1.15 and couldn’t find anyone who looked like a sketcher. I found out later that, as it was crowded, they’d gone to another pub round the corner.

By this point it was raining so I sort refuge in the Royal Exchange. This is an ‘in-the-round’ theatre which looks a bit like a Lunar Excursion Module has landed in a vast room. I sat in a corner of the Great Hall Cafe:



The Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester

As I was warm and dry in the Royal Exchange I didn’t bother with the second intermediate meeting point (which was back at Urbis) so trolled down to Spiningfields, a fairly recent development as I wanted the challenge of the Filing Cabinet as the Manchester Civil Justice Centre is affectionately known. The different floors stick out to different degrees so they look like the open drawers of a filing cabinet. The perspective is the challenge. As you can see, I forgot my can of spray fixer for the charcoal!


urban13Manchester Civic Justice Centre (aka The Filing Cabinet)

I did try another sketch of a footbridge over the River Irwell but a combination of blustery wind and cold hands means I’m not bothering uploading the result. I meandered towards the final meeting point where I met the first sketchers I had seen for over four hours. There was some chatting but I felt too cold to join in much.

Yes, the Sketchcrawl had got me into Manchester to do some drawing which I wouldn’t have done at home, but I could easily have come any other day to have sketched on my own. Perhaps, I was expecting more from an organised event. Perhaps if I’d not been late at the pub, or had decided to leave the warmth of the Royal Exchange I’d have taken part in more of the social side of the day. Either way I’m ambivalent about attending future ones.

Here are some shots of the ‘show and tell’ at Kro in Piccadilly Gardens:




A sketch done at the pub at lunchtime


This very loose watercolour sketch of Manchester Cathedral is on A2 paper

About notes to the milkman

I'm a printmaker based in the North West of England, living in Bolton and printing at Hot Bed Press in Salford. Please visit my website johnpindararts.weebly.com
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16 Responses to Urban Sketching In Manchester

  1. Vassilis says:

    Your drawings are much “warmer” than the actual places!

  2. Some other links which you may want to check out:
    I’ve already put a link to the Manchester Urban Sketching Group at the start but it’s here again:
    They are part of an international group:
    And finally was an interview on Radio 4 which included Simone Ridyard, founder member of the Manchester Urban Sketching Group. (The radio link is further down the page):

  3. I love your use of colour, it really softens the architecture

  4. ms6282 says:

    I caught the interview on Radio 4 yesterday morning and thought it sounded fun and right up your street (is that a bad pun?) so not surprised you went along. I’ve seen sketches online by some urban sketchers and urban sketching groups so it’s interesting to read of your first hand experience. If only I had an ounce of artistic talent it would be fun to give it a go, but sounds like the Manchester group needs some better organisation.

    • There were some hiccups, partially due to the interview, and I was probably a bit hard on the set up. Usually, evidently, they meet on Sundays when it is quieter and they can draw together. I’ve decided I’ll go to the one at the end of February. And, yes, ‘up your street’ is a bad pun. Rosie Scriblah is currently doing sketches and linocuts of hares with appropriate puns, ‘bad hare day’, ‘hair cut’, ‘hare today’ etc.

  5. John, it’s a shame you ‘didn’t bother’ with the second meeting point as there were around a dozen of us in the café at the football museum. Yes, we do tend to scatter and I usually sketch on my own.. but my tendency is to think that each sketcher has their own unique inspirations. That’s the lovely thing about comparing sketches at the end of the session, we can all learn from each others (sometimes surprising) choice of subject matter taken from the same general area. I do tend to work without talking much, too, probably because drawing and speaking are on different sides of the brain! I think, although most people enjoyed it, the day was atypical and Manchester Urban Sketchers shouldn’t be judged by it.

  6. Y. Prior says:

    enjoyed this post – and the pictures were great. thx

  7. Pingback: Sketching At Manchester Art Gallery | notes to the milkman

  8. Pingback: Sketching At The Library | notes to the milkman

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